Traveling: Escape rooms in Athens (Greece) - part 2

Posted on 2019-12-09

In June 2018 Liz Cable proposed in the UK enthusiasts group an Escape trip in Athens during Easter 2019. Heiner from Escape Roomers got enthusiastic about the idea and started spreading the word among his contacts. When he informed me about it, I was not sure, but a certain point the idea got hold of me and I was in. Not only for a long weekend, as the plan originally foresaw, but for a longer stay, which is what Heiner did. The originally organized trip turned, thanks to Heiner’s mastery in planning, into a week full of escapes with new and old partners in crime: from the UK Liz, Jackie and James, from Germany Roxy, Andy and Heiner, as well as some local enthusiasts Dimitris, Kostas, Panayotis and even Maria and Minas from escapenest.gr, a reference site for Greek players (only in Greek). Athens has a very respectable number of Escape Rooms (more than 250) and therefore it is only by its numbers a very interesting destination. In this trip I also found out, that the quality of the rooms is amazing. If you have not been to Athens, you are missing one of the best destinations for escape room enthusiasts in Europe, but I will leave the conclusions of this trip for the end of the article. I played 37 rooms, so buckle up for a long review, which will be delivered in two parts in (almost) chronological order. This is part 2, so be sure to check out part 1 as well.
 

DAY 4 

The Brainfall Hotel - Adventure Area

The Brainfall Hotel
This company has three rooms, which are all linked under a common narrative idea revolving around Alice in Wonderland (and the Mad Hatter) and they are known as “The Madness Trilogy”. You can play any room independently from each other, but the company recommends a certain order, which is the one we followed and in which the rooms below are presented. The venue is set as a hotel (including the personnel) and gives you already a neat impression, which is confirmed by their three high quality games, all of them with actors. 

Looking glass (2-6 players, 90 min)
In the first room of the trilogy you learn what the story is about. The set is really nicely done, and combines interesting puzzles with actor interaction. I really loved the role of the actors. And I would like to clarify at this stage something that applies to all the rooms we have played in Athens. It is really great the work of the actors in the rooms. Although I am aware that I am playing a game, it is really believable and if you let go and play your role as well, you will enjoy it even more. I still have really vivid memories of the performances of different actors in different rooms in Athens. But back to Looking glass, people which like this theme, will definitely love this room, and maybe get to meet Alice in real life 😉
 
Down the rabbit hole (2-6 players, 90 min)
The story continues in this room. In terms of ambiance and puzzles comparable with the previous room, even though this room has a very particular way of actor interaction. I found it really original and I enjoyed it a lot. It is ideal therefore to play it with a somewhat larger group (we were 4). I can imagine that if you are only two, this kind of interaction could become a little bit stressful. I guess they adapt it a little bit. Unluckily I cannot say much more in order to avoid spoilers.
 
Dark seas (2-6 players, 90 min)
The last one of the series has less to do with the original topic, although the narrative is continued and there is a reason for it, just do not expect a classical “Alice room”. As the description in the website anticipates you have to sneak in a ship to complete your mission. The set is really amazingly done. I think it was my favorite of all three in terms of ambiance, and it was also probably the room with the most theatrical elements, maybe together with Looking Glass. I think actors in the rooms, the old equivalent of NPCs in computer role playing games provide for very nice interesting and funny dynamics, which remind of those funny dialogues and tasks with characters in old games like Monkey Island, obviously if it is well-done, as it is the case here. We later found out, that one of the actresses, was the owner herself, with whom we had a nice talk after the game. As Athens is “specialized” in Horror rooms, these rooms are of mandatory visit for people that do not like horror. 

 
Adventure Arena
The Prison (2-6 players, 80 min)
Some themes have been exploited a lot in escape rooms and prison is obviously one of them. Experienced players might think that they have seen all connected to this theme, but most likely they are wrong, at least if they have not played this fantastic room in Athens. At the beginning it might look like “yet another prison room”, but it ended up being quite a cool, surprising room. Definitely one of the best “no actors” room we have played. Do not judge a book by its cover (or an escape room by its topic) and play this room. Other than the really cool puzzles, this room has quite a few surprising things, and one moment that is one of the coolest concepts I have encountered in an escape room. 
 


DAY 5

Room 54 - Lockbusters
 
Room 54
Room 54 has two rooms and we played them both. In this company I discovered a new dimension of what is possible in Escape Rooms, as you play characters with their own character sheets and even character specific missions. I had read about a game in the United States with this idea, but never heard about it in Europe. If you have, you can let me know in the comments. In any case it is rare, and it was quite a new and refreshing experience. The moment you enter the venue you enter into another world. 

Ring of protection (2-6 players, 90 min)
As anticipated above in this adventure you have to choose one of six characters, which will determine an individual mission and equipment. For some reason we did not associate RPG with horror, but we were wrong. There are dark creatures lurking in this room, and this room will put to test the courage of each of the players. Even though it is a great room, if you are not into horror this room might not be the one for you. On the contrary, if you are a brave person such a great combination of horror and RPG is really worth playing.

Swamps of sorrows (1-5 players, 90/150 min)
You can play this game in three different modes: Horror mode, Mystery mode and Insanity mode. In the horror mode “the dark ones” are very aggressive and you have easier puzzles. In the mystery mode there are no dark ones but you have the most difficult puzzles. In the insanity mode you have both the very aggressive “dark ones” and the more difficult puzzles, that is why the last mode lasts 2,5 hours instead of the 1,5 hours that lasts any of the other two modes. Additionally, you can add the “traitor mode” to any of the modes above. That means that one member of the group is a traitor with their own secret objective. 

Originally, we wanted to play the Insanity mode (the more the better 😉), but Ring of protection proved to be to terrifying for one member of our group, so we ended up playing the Mystery mode (with a traitor). While it was an amazing game, which included actor performances, a nice ambiance, different puzzles with individual tasks (yes, also here we played specific characters), it was a pity we could not experience the “dark ones”, because then you face different kinds of monsters, with different properties and you (and the monster) have health and sanity points. In any case, the traitor mode added a special flavor to the game and like I said, it was quite an impressive game. 
It has to be said, that even the mystery mode might be already scary for some people at certain specific moments, but definitely not that scary, given that our most sensible member of the group did it without any problem. 
 
Lockbusters
This company has 5 different escape rooms (at the time we were there only it had only three). While we only got to play “Upside Down”, it is worth mentioning that their newest escape rooms: Escape the car in two different variants has really nice reviews and that they have a game suitable for one player called Phone Booth, inspired in the homonymous film. Their other room is a steampunk adventure called Deus Ex machina.
 
Upside Down (2-6 players, 100 minutes)
As the name of the room suggest this room is also inspired by the series “Stranger Things”. Apparently, there is one room with the same name in Athens, so we careful to go to the correct one. Comparisons are odious, but given that we played another Stranger Things themed room, unavoidable. The first difference is that this room includes some acting and a few scares. If you do not like that, the other room is more suitable for you, on the other hand if you want to have some encounters as in the series, then this room provides this through the acting. 

In terms of puzzles I liked more the other rooms, but this room had quite some really nice puzzles, and they did something, that I cannot spoil, which was really great. The best thing is that this room covers other aspects, scenery and ideas than the one from Escaped, so it is not that you are playing two versions of the same thing. I found some elements in this room really original and therefore it is also a must for fans of the series.
 

DAY 6 

Sherlocked Homes - Escape Clue - The Mind Hunters

Sherlocked Homes
Sherlock Homes has 4 rooms, from which we played only three, as the fourth one, contrary to our expectations was not ready at that time (the reason why we ended playing Ashcliffe Assylum). We played in two groups, together with the group from the UK.

Sherlock Maze (2-5 players, 60 min)
This room is a classical puzzle room, that is, searching and puzzling without much of an ambiance, narrative or anything that really stands out. Do not get me wrong, there is nothing bad with this room, puzzles are logical and challenging, maybe good when starting to play escape rooms, but if you have played a few, you will not find any surprises. A correct first-generation room.

Cube (2-5 players, 70 min)
Cube is a challenging puzzle room, which has a few more details in the decoration, but also nothing spectacular, there is a large number of puzzles, vaguely to not connected with the story, which also does not appear in the room (just as a background as typical from first generation rooms). In terms of puzzles there were overall more original than in the previous room. Do not let the image used for representing the room confuse you, it is not a scary room. Again, there is nothing spectacular about the room, but for lovers of first-generation rooms with lot of puzzles and search, this room might be for them.

The Cursed Willy (2-5 players, 70 min)
For me this one was clearly the best of all three rooms at this venue. It had a much more elaborate set and several nice puzzles. If you do not like horror this is a very recommendable room. It is not a room that impresses by its size or effects, but it is a very solid room, if you are there for the puzzles and less for the adventure. Certainly, very recommendable in the no actor’s category.
  

Escapeclue

Lethal decision (3-7 players, 120 min)
Almost every time I tell people about our experiences with horror rooms in Athens, I mention this room. This is not by chance, as this room was without any doubt the strongest experience in terms of horror from all the rooms we played. As a matter of fact, we got warnings from local players, which expressed their concern that this room could be too much for us, as visiting foreigners. It was not too much for us and we enjoyed it a lot, but after experiencing it I could understand the reason for the warnings. I can imagine that a person sensitive to horror would quit the game already at the very beginning. There will be physical contact and you will have to run (for your life). If with this intro I was not clear enough, do not play it if you do not like horror! If you on the other hand like it, this is a room you cannot miss, an absolute must. The performance of the actor is extraordinary and in spite of being a horror rooms the puzzles were quite good, including a couple of really original ones, although obviously it is not the main focus. In any case, if you are brave, I can really recommend it!  

The Mind Hunters

Red Riding Hood (3-6 players, 80 min)
While the name could give the impression to be a room suitable for children, it is a horror room. I had played a lot of good games, when we played this one, but when we entered the room, I was amazed. The set they created is absolutely spectacular. There are a several little details that really make it an excellent experience. I liked a lot also how you learn the whole background story of the room as you play it. This is very well-achieved. If I have to criticize something, I would say that there were a few puzzles, which were not that strong, but the overall experience was really good, and only for the set it is worth playing it. 
 

DAY 7

The Paradox Project

The Paradox Project

The Mansion (Paradox Project I) (3-7 players, 180 min)
Yes, you have read it right, Paradox Project I is a 180 min long escape room. Although calling it room is kind of an understatement. You should not worry about the time spent in there, as there is a bathroom, snacks and drinks, so you will not have any needs, except solving all the puzzles in time, which is challenging. 
Paradox Project I has already some years, so you can expect more classical puzzles with locks. The difference between a very good first-generation room and Paradox Project I is first of all the fact that PP tells a story. The whole room idea is based on an elaborate script, which makes this room one of the best in terms of narrative out there. You are part of the story, you learn about the past, and all is done in a perfect way. 
There is a whole variety of puzzles, which are cleverly thought, through which you will also discover different aspects of the story. It was definitely one of my favorite rooms and worth a visit to Athens, just to experience this crazy project.
 
The Bookstore (Paradox Project II) (3-7 players, 200 min)
Paradox Project II took it to a whole new level, apparently 180 minutes was not enough, so PPII is longer, and while some people think that sequels are not good, this is not the case here. PPII is for me a perfect escape room. The whole narrative idea continues, the story that started in PPI continues in PPII, but also you learn more and more about the past. The connection between the narrative and the physical spaces is perfect, and while difficult to explain without spoilers, the use of the spaces leads to an effect known from books or movies, but that I had never seen implemented in an escape room. 

This room is the dream of any player, the length, the dimension, the story, the whole set-up, but also a great variety of puzzles, many of them quite unique and all of them connected to the narrative idea in a perfect way. Although rooms are difficult to compare to each other, if I had to choose a favorite, this is it!

A final remark on both Paradox games: Do not let the huge amount of time confuse you, you will really need that time. It is not one of those 90 minutes rooms you finish in 60 minutes (although now I wonder what is the fastest time). You will also have the possibility of pausing at around the middle of the game. 

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